Adam Thorn is a chameleon. After fronting Greensboro, North Carolina’s Kudzu Wish, a band that pulled from Hot Water Music, Jets to Brazil and other proto-emo indie rock, he slipped into his current, self-titled project, Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons, whose 2007 debut, Where’s the Freedom, was a focused genre exercise in 60’s mod-rock. Though it took him more than three years to get to it, his latest, self-titled record is yet another beast entirely.
From the album art, to the opening and closing standards, to the lyrical balance of silly and sober, Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons is an homage to early Dylan, 60’s country and Cosmic Americana music in one, sprightly package. Like the 2007 record, the album opens and closes with covers – “Flower in the Wildwood” is a tender and gentle opener to an album that demonstrates Thorn’s tendency to vacillate between songs of quiet, dusky reflection and pun-heavy, silly and sometimes black humor. “Through that Hallway” is a classic kiss-off song that harnesses traditional country wit (“Here I stand before you / Five feet five inches small / But once I vanish out through your door / I’ll be five feet five inches tall”) and “Lost Stairway” relies on puns as groan-inducing as they are repeatedly amusing. For instance, a man searching for the lost side of his brain who “has half a mind to complain.” And that’s just one of several.
“Life’s a Bummer,” however, is the record’s finest moment when it comes to balancing the dark and light, the frivolous and serious. “The purpose of life / was love, they’d always tell me / I wish they’d have told it / to the bullets that felled me,” Thorn sings before going on to resign that life is, indeed, a bummer but “death is right fair.” Its sweet simplicity is disarming and despite the obvious nature of its lyrics, it’s a truth that is resonant.
That’s what makes Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons as interesting as it is. Many artists side purely with the absurdity or seriousness of life, but it takes deft skill to walk the line in between. This is the sound of the light that comes through the spaces between the woven strands of laughter and tears. words/ j neas
MP3: Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons :: Life’s a Bummer